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The Riigikogu passed with 60 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Plant Protection Act and Associated Acts (215 SE), initiated by the Government, which solves the problems which have emerged in the implementation of the Plant Protection Act, unifies the text of the Act and harmonises it with the legal acts of the European Union. The Act amends the system of compensation for costs incurred upon application of control measures against harmful organisms. The cost of destroyed plants and plant products and the profit not received due to destruction of crop are going to be compensated. Compensation of the corresponding costs to producers will ease the economic difficulties caused to producers by spread of harmful organisms and will ensure that producers effectively apply all control measures arising from the Plant Protection Act. It also regulates the problems which have emerged in paying of supervision fees. Persons required to a pay supervision fee are given the opportunity to pay the supervision fee to the customs payments office before a consignment is allowed from a non-Community state to Estonia. Undertakings have shown interest in paying the supervision fee immediately after the phytosanitary inspection rather than during the month following the inspection. 

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Professions Bill (213 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of the Bill is to update the legal bases of the system of professions in Estonia and to introduce an eight-level system instead of the current professional qualifications system which is based on a five-level framework of professions. It builds on the qualifications framework prepared in the European Union which is grounded on lifelong learning. The further purpose of the Bill is to create a national qualifications system which would integrate the currently separated education and professional qualifications systems into a coherent whole. 

On the motion of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Youth Work Act and the Hobby School Act (232 SE), initiated by the Government, was suspended. The result of voting: 23 votes in favour, 22 against. The objective of the Bill is to promote the opportunities to participate in hobby activities and hobby education for children and young people. Pursuant to the Bill, an annual support is allocated from the state budget to the rural municipality and city budgets for partial covering of the costs of institutions offering hobby education and hobby activities. The objective of the so-called hobby group funds system to is to achieve at least 75 per cent involvement of children and young people. 

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of six Bills: 

The Bill on Amendments to the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2004-2006 Act and the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2007-2013 Act (266 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the Structural Assistance Acts in regard to the deficiencies which have emerged upon implementation of the Acts which could not be foreseen during the preparation of the Acts. The most important amendment in the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2004-2006 Act is allowing of extension of deadline for implementation of projects in justified cases. Both the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2004-2006 Act and the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2007-2013 Act provide additional regulation of the reclamation of assistance as regards the cases in which the extent of damage cannot be clearly assessed and the part of the assistance subject to refunding is determined as a percentage of the assistance allocated. In addition, the mechanisms of the compulsory execution procedure for claiming of assistance to be refunded are provided. The provisions relating to payment of assistance on the basis of unpaid expense receipts are also brought to the level of law because in their current form they are restrictive and do not apply to all final recipients. The Bill also specifies the rules applicable to the cross border cooperation programmes implemented within the framework of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. 

The Bill on Accession to Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 (247 SE), initiated by the Government, provides accession of Estonia to the said Protocol which aims to ensure an opportunity for Estonia to apply for and receive compensation for oil pollution damage from the international supplementary fund in the cases when compensation is not paid under the 1992 Convention on liability or the compensation paid on the basis thereof is insufficient for covering the pollution damage, and the compensation paid from the international fund on the basis of the 1992 Convention on the Fund is also insufficient. The supplementary fund allows damage caused to the injured party to be fully compensated also in cases of large-scale oil pollution disasters. 

The purpose of the Bill on Accession to Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (258 SE), initiated by the Government, is accession to the said Agreement. An international information network has been created within the framework of the Agreement which provides rapid and up-to-date information about the condition of the birds on migration and this allows dangers to be assessed with more precision. It is possible to take protection measures quickly, as necessary, in consideration of not only the conditions of Estonia but the scope of the whole migration area. This will ensure an integrated approach to the protection of migratory birds. The birds protected under the Agreement receive heightened attention in the European Union and the Agreement will serve as a basis for introducing additional protection measures for species in need of special attention in Estonia in the future. Accession to the Agreement will considerably enhance opportunities to participate in international projects, to exchange information and experience, and to plan and organise protection of endangered species. 

The purpose of the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Bill (259 SE), initiated by the Government, is to eliminate the obstacles still standing in the way of free movement of persons and to ensure the right to work in positions and professions regulated in Estonia to persons who have acquired foreign professional qualifications. The right to work means access to a position or profession, and it provides an opportunity to apply for commencing or continuing work at a certain specialty or profession which is applied for, and to compete on the labour market. However, as the initiator pointed out, this is not a guarantee that a person will actually be employed because the employer will make the final decision. 

The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure, the Courts Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure (260 SE), initiated by the Government, is to specify education requirements for judges, defence counsels participating in misdemeanour proceedings and contractual representatives participating in civil and criminal proceedings, and to harmonise the wording of these requirements with education terminology. In the opinion of the initiator, the amendments do not involve fundamental changes, however, they simplify the attesting of conformity of the specified persons to qualification requirements. 

The Bill on Amendments to the Universities Act, the Private Schools Act and the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act and Associated Acts (272 SE), initiated by the Government, is linked with implementation of the activities agreed upon for the years 2008-2010 in the higher education strategy and its implementation plan. Upon entry into force of the Act, starting from 2012, higher education level studies can be carried out only in the case when the Government has granted the right therefor by the Standard of Higher Education. In the opinion of the initiator, this may lead to a situation in which the period of validity of some education licences and accreditation decisions is reduced to a shorter period than their period of validity under the regulation which is currently in force. However, as the initiator stated, this is not going to involve infringement of the principle of legal certainty. 

At Question Time, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip answered the questions about the state budget, submitted by Tarmo Mänd and Inara Luigas, and the question about the social policy of the Government, submitted by Mai Treial. The Minister of Regional Affairs Siim-Valmar Kiisler answered the question about the administrative reform, submitted by Arvo Sarapuu, and the question about financing of local governments, submitted by Karel Rüütli. The Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo answered the question about the budget of the Ministry of Defence, submitted by Vladimir Velman. 

The Riigikogu Press Service 

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